If you’ve been following NASCAR the last few weeks you can’t help but notice that the ‘Silly Season’ has started early. With Brad Keselowski already signed to a deal for 2010 the biggest fish in the sea is Paul Menard.
Menard, a 29 year old native of Eau Claire Wisconsin, is currently in his third full season on the Spring Cup Series. Over parts of six seasons he’s started 104 races and has placed one top 5 and two top 10’s in his career.
While Menard has shown glimpses of having a breakout during the 2009 season the real reason his name is being thrown around is the sponsorship he brings along with him. Paul Menard is the son of Menard’s founder John Menard Jr.
Currently Menard is in year one of a two year contract he signed with Yates racing. However, when Yates and RPM merge it would in essence give Menard a legal out of his contract. The signals have been mixed public. Menard stated that he would be fine racing the merged Yates/RPM Ford’s in 2010 but there’s also been talk that the driver and his agent were looking to see what other options were on the table.
The statement from Richard Petty Motor-sports co-owner George Gillett last week in Kansas only fueled speculation that Menard may be headed elsewhere in 2010. Gillett stated that the team was set with three cars heading into 2010 and had hopes for a fourth. Originally Menard was listed along with Kasey Kahne, A.J. Almendinger and Elliott Sadler as the four drivers for the merged teams in 2010.
Acquiring Menard is the equivalent of having guaranteed full time sponsorship on one car all season. There is a high level of speculation that the merger of Yates and RPM is being held up due to the status of Menard’s contract.
Richard Childress Racing has been rumored to be interested in putting Menard behind the wheel of the 07 car currently being driven by Casey Mears. Jack Daniels the current primary sponsor of the car will be leaving NASCAR following this season and Mears’ results have not generated a ton of interest from other potential sponsors.
While Childress would seem the most likely destination should Menard leave Yates/RPM
racing other names have been thrown around. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, who Menard raced for from 2005-2008, has also been mentioned as well as becoming the second car in Robby Gordon Motor-sports which Menard’s father also owns a part of.